I know. Today is Sunday and, aside from getting ready for the work week, it is supposed to be a day of rest and relaxation. It should be the one day out of the week when no one should be discussing anything heavy, especially after the Thanksgiving Holiday respite. And, here I come, determined to tap my foot on one of your nerves. Why? Because aside from the many other things I do, I am charged, obligated even, to nudge people, ever so gently (or not), out of their comfort zones; to make them see things differently; to tick them off (in a good way if there is such a thing); to make them stand on their heads and see things from a different perspective for no other reason than to get them to think. Now I didn’t say you had to agree with me but I at least want you to open up your mind to different possibilities.
Recently, someone I’ve known forever (and when I say forever, this person remembers when I used to rock a curl), posted about Al Sharpton’s upcoming “We Shall Not Be Moved” march. My first thought was, “What march?” I didn’t know there was such a thing happening and that’s probably because I live in Atlanta and not New York or New Jersey. My second thought was, “Why is there a march?” I still don’t know the purpose of this march other than what the website said “We want to bring ALL people, groups and organizations together and have a national response.” What exactly are we responding to because there’s A LOT of things that need responses like, why Native Americans are being waterhosed like it was the 1960s in Birmingham, AL, in 32 degree weather, or why the residents of Flint, Michigan still don’t have clean water and are now being asked to pay past due water bills. Can we be specific please? We don’t need to be marching just because people. My final thought came after my friend explained why he wasn’t supporting the march.
Now, let me pause for a moment and say that my friend is one of the most socially conscious, intelligent, educated, “let me help you find, take back, and keep your righteous mind because obviously you have lost it” (in my Denzel Washington from the Great Debaters voice) individual s I know. If he’s not supporting this then there had to be a very good reason why. And there is. His response:
What does it accomplish when the person going into the White House doesn’t give a damn? What does it accomplish after all the ‘preaching to the choir’ is done and one speaker says (again) ‘let’s not come back here next year saying the same thing’ or ‘it’s time for solutions’ or asking the proverbial question we always ask after these things end'”what’s next?’
And there it is. He doesn’t stop there but offers alternatives to tried, but no longer true, methods of bringing about change that I wholeheartedly support. And I bring all this up because his response to the march is my same response to what’s happening in education. TPE recently appointed Betsy DeVos to be the new Education Secretary and everyone is running around talking about protest marches and petition signing. “Tell Trump not to choose Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary!” Yes. Tell him. Then what? The truth is, as my friend already stated, he doesn’t care so signing petitions and marching accomplishes what exactly? None of it makes a difference if there is no plan, no commitment, no determination to do the grunt work that comes AFTER all the protesting is over to ensure true change occurs. And there’s the rub.
In a 2014 article in The Atlantic, author MOISÉS NAÍM put it like this:
In today’s world, an appeal to protest via Twitter, Facebook, or text message is sure to attract a crowd, especially if it is to demonstrate against something—anything, really—that outrages us. The problem is what happens after the march. Sometimes it ends in violent confrontation with the police, and more often than not it simply fizzles out. Behind massive street demonstrations there is rarely a well-oiled and more-permanent organization capable of following up on protesters’ demands and undertaking the complex, face-to-face, and dull political work that produces real change in government.
And there it is again. But don’t get me wrong. Protesting is one of the most powerful forms of expression there is and, when done correctly, can accomplish amazing things. But only if the work is done once the protests are over. The truth is, sometimes, nothing happens after the streets clear and the signs are put away because people just wanted to be able to say they protested not because they wanted to put in any of the work. (Say “amen” or say “ouch.)
I don’t know much about our newest Secretary of Education and I intend to do my research so I can better understand who she is and what she believes. But, I assure you, I am ready to do one of two things: work with her if she is what’s best for children or work against her if she isn’t. Notice the word that remains consistent: work. Time is long past for us to sit back and let other people fight the good fight. If we want to see systemic and lasting change in our students, our schools, and our districts where ALL students experience and achieve success we cannot depend on others to get it done. It’s up to us. So, roll up your sleeves and get your mind right. We have work to do.